Orchestra's Musicians Get Early Taste of What's Ahead; 6 Conductors Lead Them This Week; Next Year, It's 8 Guest Conductors

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Byline: Charlie Patton

Next season, as Fabio Mechetti winds down his time as music director and chief conductor, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra will be led by eight guest conductors in its Masterworks series.

So, in a way, what happened Tuesday and Wednesday in the Jacoby Symphony Hall offered, for the orchestra, a taste of what next year will be like.

Over the course of the two days, the orchestra worked with six young conductors on four pieces of classical music. The occasion was the 2013 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview, a prestigious showcase for emerging conductors.

"This has been a major opportunity for a lot of young conductors," said Polly Kahn, vice president of League of American Orchestras, which organizes the event.

The six conductors, none of whom are on the Jacksonville Symphony's list of guest conductors for next year, each got 38 minutes Tuesday to work with the orchestra on three pieces: Ludwig von Beethoven's Symphony No. 2, 1st movement; Richard Strauss's "Don Juan," and either Johann Strauss's Overture to "Die Fledermaus" or Maurice Revel's "Mother Goose Suite." There was no audience on Tuesday.

They returned Wednesday to again lead the orchestra for 38 minutes through three pieces. There was a small but important audience, which included more than a dozen representatives of music organizations.

"They can see us conduct any time they want," said Keitaro Harada, assistant conductor of the Arizona Opera and director of the Phoenix Youth Symphony. "But it's not often they can come to see a rehearsal."

The event was not a competition. The six had already gone through a competition by applying for the League of American Orchestra's showcase, held every other year. They were chosen out of more than 90 applicants.

"Everyone wants to be involved in this process," said Benjamin Rous, associate conductor of the Virginia Symphony.

Working with an unfamiliar orchestra in a compressed time span was "challenging," said Joshua David Gersen, music director of the New York Youth Symphony and a conducting fellow with the New World Symphony. "But it's not a test. …